2 drivers found guilty in Burnaby crash that killed Brazilian exchange student

Two drivers convicted in death of teenaged pedestrian
Two men have been convicted of driving without due care and attention in the death of a teenaged girl in Burnaby. Rumina Daya reports.

WARNING: This story contains information that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

Two men have been found guilty of driving without due care and attention in connection to the 2018 death of a Brazilian exchange student in the middle of a Burnaby crosswalk.

Paul Oliver Wong and Kai Man Cheu pleaded not guilty to the fatal pedestrian collision on Cariboo Road near the Highway 1 overpass on Jan. 17, 2018, that claimed the life of Fernanda Girotto.

Trial begins for two men accused in fatal crosswalk crash
Trial begins for two men accused in fatal crosswalk crash

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“There was no criminal intent here,” Wong’s lawyer David Fai said outside the court. “It was inadvertent negligence. It could happen to any of us.”

During the trial late last year, the court heard Girotto, 15, was struck by a vehicle that was allegedly owned by Wong, and the driver stopped to help.

As she lay in the marked crosswalk, she was hit by a second vehicle, allegedly driven by Cheu, but that vehicle didn’t stop.

READ MORE: Trial begins in Burnaby crash that killed Brazilian exchange student

Girotto became wedged under the second vehicle and it’s alleged she was dragged 40 metres before the driver stopped.

Court heard from a paramedic and police officer who attended the scene. The paramedic said they tried everything they could do to extricate Girotto from under the car and resuscitate her, but she did not survive.

Neither driver was speeding or impaired, and both men cooperated with the investigation.

READ MORE: Two drivers charged in Burnaby crosswalk death of Brazilian exchange student

Defence argued Girotto was wearing dark clothes, and blamed both the inadequate crosswalk design and the rainy weather at the time of the crash.

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But Crown counsel Geordie Proulx said that argument was not adequate.

“It was a typical, rainy morning in Vancouver in January,” he said following the verdict. “Much like this very morning. So it’s really not much of an excuse.

“When you strike a pedestrian in a lit crosswalk — even though it’s a dark, rainy morning — clearly they weren’t paying attention.”

Second pedestrian accident on Cariboo Road in just over 24 hours
Second pedestrian accident on Cariboo Road in just over 24 hours

Wong was also charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, while Cheu faced additional charges of unsafe passing on the left and crossing a solid double line. A conditional stay was issued for those remaining charges.

Two other people were struck by vehicles in the same intersection within a week of Girotto’s death, prompting the City of Burnaby to review the crossing.

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The review led to a new pedestrian-controlled traffic light being installed, along with warning signs to slow down traffic.

READ MORE: 15-year-old girl dies after being hit by a car in Burnaby

Yun Li-Reilly, a lawyer for Girotto’s family in Brazil, read a statement on their behalf following the trial, expressing hope that similar tragedies can be avoided.

“The family hopes that further innocent victims will not have to die in order to effect improvements on the roads, or the driving ability of those that use our roads,” she read.

A date for sentencing will be set on Feb. 10. The eventual hearing is expected to include victim impact statements from Girotto’s family.

Proulx said he will be asking the judge to impose a fine and a driving prohibition. Both defence lawyers say they are against the driving prohibition.

—With files from Rumina Daya, Jon Azpiri and Jennifer Palma